Of hope and despair

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PREVIEW Significant art from the later artistic period of his life forms the first ever exhibition of Tyeb Mehta's works after his death SHAILAJA TRIPATHI

Timeless Tyeb “Mahishasura” and “Falling Bird”. (Right) Yashodhara Dalmia
Timeless Tyeb “Mahishasura” and “Falling Bird”. (Right) Yashodhara Dalmia

Point to point

Yashodhara Dalmia's book “JOURNEYS-Four Generations of Indian Artists in their own words” (OUP) will be launched at British Council auditorium on January 18 as part of the India Art Summit 2011.

The senior critic will be in conversation with another legend of Indian art, Syed Haidar Raza, “In Conversation with Raza” organised by Delhi's Art Alive Gallery on January 21 at Art Alive booth C 11.

I f India Art Summit, among many other things, is also a window that has been opened for the West to peep into India's vibrant art world and art market, what better than showcasing to the foreign visitors and even the fellow compatriots the works of Tyeb Mehta, the artist who in many ways, helped cement India's position on the contemporary art world map. In 2005, Tyeb Mehta's ‘Mahishasura,' an interpretation of the buffalo-demon of Hindu mythology was bought for 1.58 million dollars at Christie's auction in New York. It was the first time a contemporary Indian painting had crossed the million-dollar mark. He had created another record for Indian art in 2002 as well when his room-sized triptych ‘Celebration' fetched over Rs.1.58 crore at Christie's. Many more that followed the suit affirmed the crucial role that the artist played in giving publicity to Indian art on a wider canvas of the world.

From this Saturday till the 18th of next month, viewers will be able to glance through his oeuvre as curator and critic Yashodhara Dalmia mounts the legendary artist's paintings on canvas, drawings on paper and a sculpture, ranging from the year 1955 to 2007, in the show titled “Triumph of Vision” at Vadehra Art Gallery.

The exhibition also assumes importance on the account of being the first one after the artist's death in 2009. “There will be many works that haven't been seen till now. For instance, his last work, a room-sized diptych on bull in stark black and white. Interestingly, he began his career with painting a bull and it happened to be the subject of his last work as well,” says Yashodhara who in 1996 had curated a spectacular show of the Progressive Artists Group at National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai.

The market of art didn't affect the artist, one of the founding members of Progressive Artists Group, who at his own pace continued to explore the issues of conflict, violence, despair and anguish with his distorted figures. “He didn't flit from one subject to another. Like the subject of bull which kept appearing on his canvas so very often (the show will have Tyeb's first bull done in 1956 alongside the last one), he also did a number of interpretations of Mahishasura Mardini,” says Yashodhara who has included a few works from the artist's work centred around the goddess in the exhibition.

The art works from Tyeb's ‘Falling figure' series — a large diptych of falling bird — which is another landmark in his career also feature in the show. “What's strange about his birds is that they are always falling down instead of going up making the reality seem very bleak. While in his earlier works, he seemed to suggest that there's no way out and in the last two decades, his work was imbued with hope,” says Yashodhara. She adds that he employed mythology to put him in touch with reality in a way that offered hope at the end of it all.



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